Monday, January 30, 2012

Tips to Teaching Children About Politeness

Welcome Maryann B. Sawka to the blog today as a guest author. She is the author of Good Table Manners Made Easy.

                                                          By Maryann B. Sawka

The idea of politeness is something that we begin to teach our children when they are quite young by introducing words such as “please” and “thank you.” Repeating those phrases a few times will have your youngster starting to say them independently without reminders from you. When they grow a little, we add “I’m sorry” and “you’re welcome” to the polite vocabulary that we are building in our children. We demonstrate when to use the words and continue to use them so that our youngsters will mimic our actions.

Children are never too young to learn polite behavior and actions.  In fact, it is a better idea to teach manners when they are young so that the behaviors we are teaching become a foundation on which we continue to build as our children mature. 

When we put young children together, we are introducing a social element where they are with like-aged peers and learn about sharing and taking turns. They are practicing these necessary skills, which allows their playtime to be more enjoyable.  If everyone is using the same social skills, everyone should get along and have a good time, right?

When we raise our children, we teach limits and boundaries, which go together nicely with the idea that we should treat each other with kindness and respect.  Granted, when children are at a very young age, we may not use words that may be at a level that is above their understanding, such as “boundaries” and “respect,” but we can convey the idea of politeness by using vocabulary that they will understand.  We can talk about feelings, how everyone has feelings and how our actions and words can affect the feelings of others.  This helps their evolution from an egocentric way of thinking to starting to put the needs of others before our own needs.

As they grow and mature, we can introduce appropriate ways to greet and introduce others as their social lives expand through outside activities such as dance class, sports, community-related activities and more. At this point, our manners conversation moves to topics that include getting along with others, being a good friend, greeting others and similar actions.  We talk about being a good guest when they are invited to join someone at their home or on an outing and being a good host when they entertain friends at their own home.

Keep in mind, that these are discussions that are better reinforced through many conversations where dialogue is a two-way street.  Teaching manners includes asking questions while sharing new information, without preaching. In my etiquette workshops, I like to keep the educational part of the workshop fun and lively with role-playing activities so that the participants have an opportunity to share what they already know and can participate in the learning, rather than having me present the material in the form of a lecture.

When we start talking with teens about manners and etiquette, they should already have the foundation that we have been building since they were young children.  We can now introduce topics that include building positive relationships, manners in public and electronic etiquette as most teens have a cell phone or computer.  We can start to talk about workplace etiquette as this is the time when many teens venture out into the work world.

The evolution of good manners begins at a young age and continues as children grow and mature.  In many ways, manners instruction is a building process much like math and reading.  If you teach the basics first, you can continue to teach higher-level skills in a natural progression.  Children are never too young to learn good manners.

Thanks so much for such good information. Please follow Maryann tomorrow at  for another great post.

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